Wednesday, November 17, 2010
My mother and I went downtown to a candy store called Jack’s Wholesale Candy & Toy before Halloween to pick up candy for the kids. They had an excellent selection of Mexican candies, including many tamarind and chili candies. But I was more interested in the cajeta and dulce de leche candies. They had lots to choose from, mostly in the form of little patties but also a few hard candies and lollipops. Since it was Halloween, we picked up this pound plus bag of Coronado Paletas de Cajeta to give out.
Cajeta is a Mexican specialty usually made with goat’s milk (leche de cabra). It’s slowly simmered with sugar until it forms a syrup so thick that a spoon stands straight up in it. It’s usually served as a spread or filling for other baked goods but sometimes boiled a little longer to create a more solid fudge-like candy. But there are are also other candies that use the caramel-like goo as a base. In the case of these lollipops, the caramel base was used to make a hard toffee type lollipop. Each was nicely mounted on a plastic stick and sealed to keep them fresh. I was attracted to the package mostly because the Coronado logo features a nanny goat picture.
Goat’s milk has both a different flavor profile and a slightly different nutritional one from cow’s milk. As someone who is quickly developing a lactose intolerance problem, I’ve been shifting over to goat’s milk products and finding them tasty, nutritious and more digestible.
I really didn’t think these were going to be very good, somewhere in the realm of the mediocre Tootsie Caramel Pops. They were far superior.
First, there are few ingredients: goat’s milk, sugar, corn syrup, sodium bicarbonate & potassium sorbate. The fact that the milk came before the sugar was encouraging.
The look of the candies was great. The mylar wrappers were a pretty mix of brown and maroon and well sealed to protect the pops (and give confidence to parents for Halloween hauls). The candy on the stick looked pretty much pristine. None that I had were chipped or broken or poorly formed. They’re about the size of Chupa Chups, or smaller than a Tootsie Pop but larger than a Dum Dum.
The flavor is smooth and creamy. I didn’t have a single void in the half dozen I’ve eaten so far (there were 40 pops in the bag and my mother didn’t get a lot of trick-or-treaters). The flavor is subtle, it’s not gamey or too tangy like some goat’s milk can be, but it’s definitely not the cow’s milk profile either. The caramel notes are true but without any bitterness that some toffee can have. It’s a very subdued sweetness.
They were quite dense and lasted a long time. Of course I like to crunch and eventually I would chip away at them with my canines. They’re actually quite crunchy without sticking to my teeth.
If you’re a fan of Werther’s Originals, these are very similar though less sweet and a little less oily.
The package didn’t say anything about nuts or gluten. It did say that there’s 23% of your calcium in every lollipop, but I think that’s some sort of math error. I’m definitely going to explore the Coronado brand more fully in the future.
Sera from The Candy Enthusiast tried a slightly different version of these.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Cooler temperatures mean more chocolate consumption in my world. I’ve really been enjoying the bars from Equal Exchange, so I decided to branch out from the plain dark chocolate bars to their flavored offerings.
The Equal Exchange Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt is a modest bar, sporting only 55% cacao content, it’s not extraordinarily dark and has more of a candy bar flair to it with bits of salty toffee.
The bar is wrapped simply in a burnt orange and brown wrapper that goes with the color coding Equal Exchange has going on for their line.
The bar is inside a thin white plastic sleeve which is easy to open and slip the bar back into. The bar looks great, it has a reddish hue to it and the inclusions of toffee bits are visible within the chocolate mass.
The bar has a distinct and bright snap. Breaking the bar reveals a plethora of big crunchy toffee bits (made with just four ingredients: cream, sugar, vanilla and sea salt). The chocolate itself smells like coffee and has a light acidic bite to it. It’s sweet, but not sticky and has a well rounded woodsy chocolate flavor. The toffee bits are crunchy and buttery with a strong salty note. They go exceptionally well with the chocolate and complement the smooth melt of the chocolate with the hard burnt sugar notes and the dash of sea salt.
This bar straddles the world of easy to eat candy and decadent treat. The chocolate isn’t as nuanced as the darker single origin bars, but it’s also more accessible. It’s one of my favorite toffee chocolate bars now. (It still prefer the slightly more candy-ish Green & Black’s Peanut Bar, but that’s milk chocolate and I’ve had more of those bars than the Equal Exchange.)
It’s fair trade, organic and Kosher. It’s made in a facility that processes tree nuts and peanuts and of course isn’t vegan because of the milk in the toffee.
UPDATE 11/16/2010: I transcribed the ingredients incorrectly in an earlier version of this review. There is no corn syrup in this bar. The only sweetener is organic unrefined and/or raw cane sugar. I’ve revised the review to reflect the accurate ingredients.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I buy candy a lot of places, but probably the ones that fit best with the original intentions of Candy Blog are the dollar stores. Dollar stores and discounters like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar Store and 99 Cent Only Stores have a mix of closeout products, mainstream candies and then a bunch of weird stuff that you’ve never seen before and may never see again. One of the purposes of Candy Blog was to seek out those fringe candies and demystify them. Here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve picked up:
There’s no reason a couple of handfuls of fresh peanuts and some sugar can’t be dirt cheap and delicious. The good news is that I think Old Dominion has done an excellent job filling that niche. Old Dominion Butter Toffee Peanuts don’t come in the most attractive package ever, but the package has five ounces and boasts only four ingredients: peanuts, sugar, butter and salt. They’re Kosher and American made.
They’re a simple panned nut. A buttery toffee coating on whole peanuts.
They’re buttery, a little salty, crunchy and fresh. Not much more to say except that I wish they sold these in the vending machines in the basement of my office building. (My old office had PNuttles from time to time, which is similar, but a little more “toasty” where these are “buttery”.)
I bought the Zachary Thick Mints at the 99 Cent Only Store because they’re called Thick Mints. I mean, how could I resist. They’re mints and they’re thick.
They’re real chocolate, so they have that going for them. I don’t know much about Zachary as a brand for chocolate, I’ve had their sugar candies around Halloween and found them passable, but I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to sugar ... not so much when it comes to chocolate. The tray is flimsy and insubstantial as a serving piece (it bends and spills out the contents) but it did its job along with the box of protecting the product.
They are as advertised, they’re big and thick. They’re about the same diameter as the mini foil-wrapped York Peppermint Patties (about 1.33 inches across) but they’re at least a half an inch high. The inside is more like a Junior Mint (a flowing mint fondant) than a York Peppermint Pattie (a crumbly and dry fondant). The mint fondant is smooth, with a tiny grain to it but a smooth pull and strong almost alcoholic peppermint flavor. The chocolate is a letdown, not terribly cream and lacking a solid cocoa punch. It still does a good job of containing the minty center.
A couple of months ago I got the notion that I should review the chocolate covered caramel bites that come in Movie Theater boxes. (Yeah, a very specific genre of candy, but there are at least three of them.) This one got as far as the acquisition of the candy, photography and consumption. I just couldn’t think of much of a hook for it. But hey, I can’t let it go to waste.
I found Hershey’s Milk Duds, Tootsie Junior Caramels and Zachary Chocolate Caramels at the Dollar Tree. So they’re all the same price and basically the same thing. But very different.
Zachary Chocolate Caramels are the newest one on the market. The box is rather generic but at least well made. The photo of the baubles of milk chocolate are appetizing and the product within does actually look like that. The box holds 4.8 ounces, not the biggest value of the bunch, but still a lot of candy, especially if it’s real chocolate.
Of the three this was the only one that had a protective bag inside. They’re really big and have a decent milky smell. The milk chocolate is thick but not very flavorful. There are some dairy notes but the melt isn’t smooth. The caramel center is soft and easy to chew. It doesn’t have a strong butter or caramelized sugar flavor, it’s more like a cereal note. Just slightly toasty and sweet, it reminds me of Kraft Caramels.
The Junior Caramels box says that it has 10% more free, which is good because it doesn’t even manage to cram 4 ounces in there. The package says that they’re soft milk caramels in pure chocolate. (Here’s my original review when they were first introduced in 2005.)
The chocolate isn’t as thick as the Zachary ones and they’re not as glossy. They don’t smell like much and don’t taste like caramel or milk chocolate either.
The chew of the center is soft but not grainy. Again it’s lacking in butter, toasted sugar and that stringy pull that I love about caramel.
Milk Duds have been around since the 20s. They’ve gone through many changes in corporate ownership, packaging and formulation. Recently Hershey’s stopped using real milk chocolate to coat these choice little caramel bits which is too bad.
They really live up to their name when it comes to appearance, the caramel centers are rarely spherical, they’re flattened lumps. The caramel centers of Milk Duds are quite firm. The chew though is completely smooth and slick. The flavor is authentically toffee-like with a luxurious milky note. It’s so sad that the cardboard mockolate on the outside trashes the flavor with off notes and waxy cocoa. (I can’t say that the chocolate was great when it was real chocolate, but at least the flavor wasn’t off even if the texture was.)
It’s hard to declare a winner with this motley bunch. I love the center of Milk Duds, but the Zachary really do look the most appealing. I can’t say I want to eat any of them again and will probably dump out the rest of them before I flatten the boxes to be saved in my collection.
Monday, March 1, 2010
The Wonka brand of candies was launched shortly after the release of the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They were originally made by Sunline but Nestle bought up Sunline (also the maker of SweeTarts and Pixy Stix) in 1988. At that time the Wonka brand consisted of a combination of candies mentioned in the book, such as Everlasting Gobstoppers but mostly fanciful original creations such as Peanut Butter Oompas (picture here), Super Scrunch (picture here). They later focusing more on profitable and successful sugar candies such as Wacky Wafers (picture here), Dweebs, Runts, DinaSour Eggs (picture here) and of course Nerds.
The early Wonka Scrumdidilyumptious bar was a “chocolately caramel crisp” - the format was rather long, thick and narrow. (See this counter display.)
Nestle is reinvigorating the brand, both the sugar candy side (new gummis like Sluggles & Puckerooms, sour filled licorice like Kazoozles and chocolate popping candy like Tinglerz). Their chocolate line called Wonka Exceptionals capitalizes both on the imaginative side of the Wonka character from the Roald Dahl books as well as the quality aspect which has been largely lacking in previous chocolate products. The launch is with three different bars and foil wrapped pieces: Scrumdiddlyumptious, Domed Dark Chocolate & Chocolate Waterfall.
This new version of the Wonka Scrumdiddlyumptious Bar is spelled slightly differently: diddly instead of didily. It’s listed on the back of the package as Bar No. 17 and described as Milk chocolate with scrumptious toffee, crispy cookie & crunchy peanuts. Sounds good! No one else is making a bar quite like this, so it’s exciting to see them creating something original instead of a different packaging format of an existing product.
The little foil wrapped pieces are cute. They’re 1.25” long, 1” wide and about .33” high. They smell lightly chocolatey, but not as peanutty as I expected. The texture of the milk chocolate is super smooth and silky - a far cry from the waxy stuff in other Nestle products. It’s exceptionally sweet though, so too much of it and it burned my throat. The inclusions were little bits of graham cracker like cookies (digestive biscuits is perhaps more appropriate for comparison), little buttery toffee nuggets and peanut bits.
The variations in the nuggets meant that some pieces and bites were more interesting than others. The toffee had a good crunch to it and a salty note. The peanuts were not deeply roasted and were more grassy but still gave a different chew. The cookie pieces were mild and gave a malty cereal note to it.
The chocolate quality is a huge upgrade from the Wonka Bar (which is now discontinued - these will replace it). I don’t think I’d spend the premium for this in a bar format mostly because the Green & Black’s Peanut bar is truly scrumptious, similarly price but also organic & soon to be Fair Trade). However, foil wrapped pieces are different enough to warrant consideration.
Each piece is less than 50 calories, so if you have trouble controlling portions with a large bar, these are a nice option.
The packaging is fanciful, though definitely cluttered and not that easy to read as most of the colors are the same value. The holographic plastic is a bit of overkill as far as I’m concerned (and probably resource intensive) but I’m guessing the bags without the “Golden Ticket” giveaway will be a bit clearer. I was most impressed with the fact that they were even creative with the bar code on the package.
The product line is expensive, we’re talking Dove or Hershey’s Bliss level, not the ordinary Nestle Crunch prices. The bags I picked up hold 9.5 ounces and were $4.99 each. (The press release from the company said retail is $4.49 and I’m guessing there will be sales where you can find them for about $3 a bag.) The bars are 3.5 ounces and retail for $2.49 each.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Ferrara’s expansion into the midscale chocolate market has been quick. The first items I spotted are their Belgian chocolate bars, conceived to compete with Kraft’s Toblerone products. For the holidays this year they have three initial offerings of chocolate oranges in the style of Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
They come in the standard Milk Chocolate Orange and Dark Chocolate Orange as well as the Milk Chocolate Toffee Crunch Orange. They’re well priced at $2.50 each, and I’m guessing that deeper discounts will be found with holiday sales. I found my set at Walgreen’s, but I’ve also seen them at CVS.
The package is pretty, though not ornate or really much of a standout. The gold foil is a nice touch and the color-coding of the base of the boxes makes it easy to spot the flavor you might be looking for. They’re quite hefty, clocking in at 6.17 ounces (a Terry’s orange is 6.0).
On the front of the box it says that it’s a natural orange flavor so I was hoping the product was all natural, but I found reading the ingredients that it also contains vanillin (an artificial vanilla flavor).
I’ve always found Terry’s Chocolate Orange to be very sweet and I’m grateful that the sections are small because I’m rarely able to eat more than one or two at a sitting. I was hoping the Ferrara would be a little richer.
I started with the Ferrara Dark Chocolate Orange because I’d already had the plain Milk Chocolate from Ferrara and was very eager to try their dark. The bronzy orange foil has a sticker that exalts me to Burst then Enjoy (compared to Terry’s which is Whack and Unwrap). Inside the foil is a sectioned sphere.
The first difference I noticed is that it’s shiny and smooth. Terry’s have an orange rind texture. The second thing I noticed was different from a Terry’s was how solidly crafted this American orange is. When they say Burst, they don’t give me much indication of how much pressure to apply. So it took three fairly substantial smacks on a flat and firm surface to adequately dismantle the thing. (There’s a very good reason there are no photos of the Milk Chocolate Orange sections in this review as my ability to duplicate my success on the dark one was, well, unsuccessful.)
Each section is nicely molded and has a pretty orange peel and pulp design along with a version of the F crest in the center. The other side is blank.
It smells mostly sweet and with a light touch of orange. I didn’t get a lot of cocoa-vibe even from the broken orange. The snap is good, in fact the whole thing is very nicely tempered. It’s immediately sweet and has a strong orange essence to it. The chocolate is a little chalky and dry at the same time it has a cool and immediate melt. The dark chocolate actually has whole milk powder and milk fat in it, so it’s hardly dark chocolate though not milky enough to call it dairy milk chocolate.
For me it was simply too sweet and without some sort of milk flavors or intense cocoa notes, it just bored me. It’s attractive to look at and fun to share, but I would probably be disappointed if I got this in my stocking year after year.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The Milk Chocolate Orange is probably the classic of the bunch. It’s handsome and just as expertly made as the dark version (though I was not able to expertly disassemble it - see the milk toffee version below for a reasonable facsimile of what yours would probably look like).
The orange scent from this version was sweet and had a slight milky and caramel note to it. I was looking forward to this one because I rather liked the milk chocolate in the Belgian chocolate bar. However, after eating a few slices, it didn’t seem quite the same. It’s not quite as creamy or milky, though sometimes tempering and flavors can create changes. But I also noted on the box that it didn’t say anywhere that it was made from Belgian chocolate, so maybe it’s not the same at all. (I’d consult the wrapper for the Belgian chocolate bar but I ended up using the box as an impromptu knife sheath on Thanksgiving). My guess is that the Belgian stuff was more expensive and those bars were 3.5 ounces ... this is over 6 ounces for only 50 cents more.
There’s a slight grain to it as it melts and I’m really missing the chocolate flavors. Still, I found it much more munchable than the dark version.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The final variety is orange shaped but not orange flavored. The Milk Chocolate Toffee Crunch is a milk chocolate studded with toffee bits. Reading through the ingredients it’s clear that they’re really toffee (made with butter and not cheap butterscotch hard candies. It looks pretty much like the milk chocolate one.
It has a slight cereal scent to it in addition to the milky sweet smell. It’s sweet and slightly grainy with a strong milky component. There are little chips of toffee with a good salty and buttery note. The chips, however, are very small, so there’s no additional texture of crunching them, just the little salty texture change. As with the other varieties, it was so very sweet that I found that two slices were more than enough to give me a sore throat and craving for pretzels or plain almonds.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nope, I was wrong. Turns out the Trader Joe’s are made by SweetWorks who makes the Florida Tropic brand line. See more here.
Overall, I think the Ferrara products are nice quality and are certainly easy to find. I appreciate seeing a product like this that’s American-made (so often fresher and cheaper because they don’t have to import). They’re also Kosher. They’re not quite to my taste, but if I can’t get folks at the office to eat these I’m going to try making them into a decadent orange & chocolate pudding.
Coming up soon, the other chocolate oranges from Florida Tropic (photos of the varieties here).
Monday, November 9, 2009
The problem with Mr. Goodbar was that it was never Mr. Greatbar in the first place. When Hershey’s replaced the cocoa butter in it, I completely lost interest. So, I’ve been looking for Mr. Betterbar because I still believed there could be a simple, satisfying combination of milk chocolate and fresh roasted peanuts. When I was at the Target in Harbor City shortly before Halloween I spotted this new bar: Green & Black’s Peanut. Since Green & Black’s is organic and expensive, I thought for sure it was going to be better.
After I got the bar home and photographed it, I read a little closer to see that it wasn’t just a plain milk chocolate with whole (or half) pieces of peanuts. No, this was something quite different but still equally compelling: Milk chocolate with caramelized peanuts and a hint of sea salt - 37% Cocoa Content.
The bar looks smooth and shiny. It also looks darker than most milk chocolate bars, somewhere between a true dark and a milk chocolate. I like how Green & Black’s bars are just a little thicker than the Lindt Excellence or Scharffen Berger. This is great especially when there are inclusions, because it leaves room for them to stack and still be surrounded by chocolate.
The bar smells incredible. It’s deep and smoky with a great authentic peanut scent along with the faint hint of caramelized sugar and milk. The texture is equally great, there’s a silky smooth melt and a sweet dairy flavor along with some dark bitter notes of both chocolate and toasted nuts. The peanut flavors are quite strong, and the nuts themselves are crunchy but there’s also the wonderful surprise of both little buttery toffee bits and a crisp toffee coating on some of the peanuts. The salt is also a nice complement to the flavors, keeping the rather sweet milk chocolate from becoming too sticky and setting off the woodsy notes.
I ate this bar up in less than two days. Then I went looking for another. I still haven’t found one, but when I see it, I’ll buy it. Oddly enough, it’s still not the Mr. Goodbar substitute I was looking for, but I’m going to just be happy with the serendipity that brought it into my life and be grateful that my mistakes are so tasty.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Lindt is an iconic name in the world of chocolate. Its founder Rodolphe Lindt invented the chocolate conching machine in 1879 and set the standard for “eating chocolate”. Today Lindt & Sprungli chocolate is a behemoth company which makes both solid chocolate bars, their consumer truffle line of Lindor products & their iconic chocolate rabbits but also owns the American chocolate company, Ghirardelli.
They have a multitude of lines of chocolate bars, each with different profiles. The Excellence line is often found at drug stores, grocery chains & even at airport shops. It’s a nice size & excellently designed package. The paperboard sleeve holds a 3.5 ounce chocolate bar - it’s thin but nicely scored into easy to break & eat portions. (Other lines include Classic Recipe, Les Grandes, Creation, Petits Desserts - at least 50 bars.)
Before I started writing Candy Blog I was a pretty died hard Lindt fan. Their darker bars were one of the first on the market that I was exposed to that gave the cacao content. I was pretty happy at 70%.
My experience with Lindt milk chocolate is rather limited, so before vacation I picked up this bar: Lindt Excellence Toffee Crunch.
It is rather thin and I have to preface this review with the fact that I prefer my bars that have inclusions to be a little thicker.
It smells sweet & buttery.
The chocolate has a nice snap, even in the heat we were experiencing in Southern California. Inside each piece it was easy to spot the little toffee bits.
The chocolate is smooth and milky and though the texture isn’t quite as fine as I would have wanted, I’m not sure it would matter because of all the toffee bits.
The toffee was firm & gave a good little bite of salty burnt sugar and butter.
The effect was great, it was filling & satisfying without being too cloyingly sweet. Still, for my personal preference I might want bigger toffee pieces and a darker milk chocolate. But I can see that this would have lasting appeal for some folks and if I ate it with something to offset the sweetness it’d probably be gone by now. Also, I was a bit irritated that there were artificial flavors in there for a product at this price point - good toffee is not that hard to create and it doesn’t need artificial caramel flavor.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Sometimes I buy things that I think are insanely expensive. This little box of Recchiuti dragee are just such a purchase. I saw them mentioned on CHOW and filed it away in my head that I should pick it up when I saw it.
The assortment is called Asphalt Jungle Mix. It features a riot of burnt caramel hazelnuts & almonds, cherries two ways and peanut butter pearls.
So when I found them at a little gourmet shop in Los Olivos on the last day of my vacation, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Partly because what I really wanted to try was the Peanut Butter Pearls. But this mix, besides having an awesome name, also featured hazelnuts & almonds ... but then there were cherries. I actually like real cherries and dried cherries are a pretty good approximation of the real thing ... so instead of getting the singular Peanut Butter Pearls I got the Asphalt Jungle.
The price online is $12.00 for 6 ounces. The price at this shop was $14.00. Yes ... insane. But I was also on vacation, and I’m also the Candy Blogger. Into the basket they went.
The assortment is pretty and luckily it was easy to figure out what everything was at a glance.
A beautiful little sphere, about the size of a pea. They’re a dark milk chocolate and rich peanut butter and a teensy cereal crisp center.
The effect is quite addictive. They’re barely sweet and even have little pops of salt sometimes. This is excellent movie food. I will buy these in the separate box.
These were inconsistent, but it really didn’t matter because they were also great. Some tasted like dark chocolate covered roasted hazelnuts, but every once in a while I got one that has a bit of a toasted sugar crunch to it.
I preferred the sugared ones. In the end, though it was very high quality I think I prefer the really chocolatey ones from Charles Chocolates (also made in the Bay Area and also similarly expensive).
Like the hazelnuts, these didn’t always seem to have their burnt sugar coating.
They chocolate was salty and dark and the cocoa on top of that wasn’t too powdery. The crunchy combination of all the flavors was nice and more on the savory side than sweet.
This was one time when I was a bit disappointed in the package. While it was pretty snazzy, I liked the spare design and minimalism, I actually wanted more information. The entire back of the box is blank except for a little footer at the bottom that has the Recchiuti logo & location. This would have been the perfect spot to include this little tidbit of info that’s on the website: dried Michigan tart cherries and candied wild Italian cherries drenched in dark chocolate with a light dusting of cocoa powder.
Both versions were tart, chewy and intensely cherry. They were like the best most cherry-ish Raisinets ever. (You know, if Raisinets were made with good chocolate.) Not quite for me, but excellent.
I liked this opportunity to try four different products in one package ... it saved me a lot of money because now I know that I want to eat the Peanut Butter Pearls for the rest of my life - they straddle that perfect line between decadent sweet and tantalizing savory. Perfect for sharing and though completely munchable and addictive, the 6 ounce package and the size of your bank account will keep your waistline in check.
Finally, I don’t know why I have an issue with paying this much for panned chocolates. I’ve been the to Recchiuti shop quite a few times and bought chocolates there that are $55 a pound ... why should I take issue with a variety mix for only $32 a pound? Is it because each one isn’t handcrafted like a truffle is? I don’t know ... but I hope I can get over it because it is good stuff. It might be because I’ve had excellent stuff at half the price (or even smaller fractions of the price) ... but good is good.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.